Add some personality to your child's music time with Zoo Tunes speakers. The battery-operated critters plug into MP3 players, smartphones, and other media devices for portable jams. Available in seven styles.
Ages 5 and up, Impecca, $29.99
Capture The Action: Making quality homemade action movies just got easier for kids, thanks to the Action Shot Digital Video Camera. Use the included strap to attach the camera to a helmet, or shoot from a board with the mounting kit shown above (sold separately). Free online software lets young movers and shakers edit images before sharing them with fans.
Ages 7 and up, Jakks Pacific, $49.99; $24.99 for mounting kit
For bigger-than-life family nights, simply connect the Acer X1161P Projector to your laptop or gaming system, then sit back and enjoy the show. The projector keeps images crystal clear up to a 25-foot diagonal screen size—maybe too large for that home video of Uncle Jim eating birthday cake but perfect for the latest blockbuster DVD at a backyard movie night.
Lalaloopsy Headphones have everything a young girl could want for listening to her tunes: cushioned ear pads and cute styling. They also sport features parents want: volume control, durability, and affordability.
Ages 4 and up, Jazwares, $19.99
Keep the family screens smudge-free with a Squeaky Clean mouse. This machine-washable microfiber pal cleans little fingerprints and more from computers, MP3 players, CDs, and phones.
Ages 5 and up, North American Bear Co., $12
Four popular educational devices all received upgrades for 2012. Here's how they stack up:
LeapPad 2: Front and back cameras mean double the photo fun, and 4GB of memory provides storage for more games.
Ages 3 to 9, LeapFrog, $99.99
InnoTab2: There's expanded memory storage for games, and the rotating camera makes it easy for kids to take photos of their families and themselves.
Ages 3 to 9, VTech,$79.99
LeapsterGS: Using its motion sensor, kids can put a little body language into their game play.
Ages 4 to 9, LeapFrog, $69.99
MobiGo2: Its new motion sensor enables kids to move on-screen players by tilting and turning; a microphone lets kids enjoy sound-activated games.
Ages 3 to 8, VTech, $59.99
Not ready to let your kids loose on your $500 tablet? Two new options give you a way out. Both Techno Source's Kurio7 and Oregon Scientific's Meep boast 7-inch screens, preloaded games, online access, and colorful protective guards. We especially like Kurio's front and back cameras and the parental controls on both. Plus, Meep offers parental control access from any device with online capability, including smartphones.
Ages 6 and up, $149.99 each
The Wii U is sure to be at the top of many a kid's—and parent's—wish list this year. The interactive system's GamePad is a touch-screen controller that looks and acts like a tablet. We love the fact that the GamePad can be used both in multiplayer games with the console and for stand-alone play. Bonus: most old Wii games and controllers are compatible with the new system.
Ages 5 and up Nintendo, starting at $299
Players entering the Nintendo Land theme park can try their luck at 12 mini games based on such classics as Donkey Kong and the Legend of Zelda. Our favorite: Luigi's Ghost Mansion, where the player holding the GamePad controls a ghost invisible to others.
1 to 5 players. Wii U.
Ages 10 and up, Nintendo, $59.99
In Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, our pal has some help from Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Together they battle to save Wasteland in this magical (and musical) sequel to the popular Disney Epic Mickey.
1 or 2 players. Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, Wii U.
Ages 8 and up, Disney Interactive, $39.99 to $59.99
Take the classic Sega game Castle of Illusion, move its characters and its storyline (saving Minnie from the witch Mizrabel) to Wasteland, and you have Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion.
1 player. 3DS. Ages 5 and up, Disney Interactive, $39.99
Wonderbook: Book of Spells, with original content by J. K. Rowling, holds many secrets of the Harry Potter universe. Through the technology of the PlayStation Move controller and Eye Camera, the Wonderbook conjures a magical 3-D pop-up world, where students can interact with the game by practicing spells and exploring the depths of Hogwarts.
1 player. PS3.
Ages 10 and up, Sony PlayStation, $39.99
Upon accepting admission to Hogwarts, kids can try to become the best witch or wizard of their age by casting spells, brewing, and dueling in Harry Potter for Kinect. Especially magical: the game features scenes from the entire series.
1 or 2 players. Xbox 360 Kinect.
Ages 10 and up Warner Bros., Interactive Entertainment, $49.99